Treehouse

online magazine for short, good writing

Category: Fiction

Moonlight Serenade

by Treehouse Editors

Phil Gallos

“Zombies and vampires. That’s all I ever get at these full-moon gigs,” the werewolf complained in a nasal growl.

Mary Alice peered at him through Coke-bottle glasses. “You sound like a cracked didgeridoo.”

“It’s this damn head cold. Next stop, sinus infection. Probably picked it up from one of the zombies. There’re vectors for everything. Might as well be in a room full toddlers.”

They watched the elegant and tattered crowd on the ballroom floor, gliding and lurching, moonlight streaming through windows long ago shattered by the bored and the disaffected. It sparkled on the disco balls and illuminated puffs of dust driven from frost-heaved parquetry by the impact of feet that would never die.

The werewolf frowned.

“They only call me because no one else will DJ for them. And I get so tired of blood and decay. It’s depressing.”

“Try to look at the bright side, Loup. How unhappy their existence might be if they didn’t have these dances to look forward to. And you make it possible for them to escape. You give them a few hours of…of….” Mary Alice tried to think of a word more appropriate than joy but couldn’t.

“You give them a few hours of joy. And, besides, it isn’t all vampires and zombies. I’m here.”

She flashed him a wide smile.

Loup grunted. He looked at her. “And that’s another thing. You’re a sixteen-year-old girl with bad eyes and great teeth. What are you doing here?”

Mary Alice thought of all the moons that had passed since her first moon bleeding. She thought about the silver light on the frozen lake and the hills beyond the lake, the woods alive with wild voices calling. She had never doubted they were calling her. She put her hand on Loup’s flank, felt the soft coat and the hard muscle beneath…felt saliva rising around her tongue and a tingling in the roots of her teeth.

“Because this is where I belong,” she said.

Loup pointed to the figures lumbering and drifting upon the floor. “With them?”

Mary Alice shook her head, her hair platinum, shag cut. “No, Loup. Not with them.”

She slipped a pale arm around his dark waist. He stiffened slightly; then relaxed, adjusting to this new level of intimacy. But when she urged him toward the dancers with the gentlest of pressure, he resisted.

“I have to stay here. I have to spin these discs.”

“The discs will spin without you until there’s nothing left to spin; and, when the last tune ends, the vampires and the zombies will think the dance is over, and they’ll leave. But we will still hear the music. We will always hear the music.”

Loup considered this for a moment, then said, “But I have a contract. It will cost me if I violate it.”

“It will cost you more if you don’t. Come. Come away from this and dance.”

He stepped uncertainly from his console and microphone, and she guided him to the dancefloor, his confidence growing as they moved in among the ageless and the undead. A faint breeze filled the hall, animating the somnolent chandeliers. The discs played all there was to play. The console fell silent. One by one, the vampires floated away through broken windows, the zombies staggered out through chain-locked doors, until just the werewolf and the girl were left dancing to a song audible only to them.

Down the snow-quiet street, a young couple wanders arm in arm. They stop at twin sets of animal tracks that begin at a dual door secured by a heavy chain threaded through the handles and padlocked. From there, the tracks cross the street, descend an embankment, and continue onto the frozen lake, converging with distance into a single line and, finally, disappearing.

“Are those from dogs?” the girl asks.

“Wolves, I bet,” the boy replies. “They say there’s a white one, now. Somebody saw it running along the river with its mate.”

“But how did they get through this door?”

“You don’t want to know. Everybody says this place is haunted. It’s been shut for thirty years. Don’t you think it’s scary?”

“No. I think it’s beautiful. This is the old dancehall, isn’t it?”

“It sure is.”

“My grandfather told me about this place. He says nothing is haunted – just occupied by what we don’t understand. He met my grandmother here. She looked like me – very fair. Her hair never had to turn white. It was white from birth. Grandfather told me they had full-moon dances every month. When it was time to call it a night, the band would play ‘Moonlight Serenade,’ and the doors would open, and the people would dance that last slow dance until they were out on the street and halfway home.”

The girl and the boy follow the wolf tracks to the edge of the ice, where the girl sees something in the snow and stoops to pick it up.

“Oh, look at these trippy glasses!”

She puts them on, gazes up at the moon. The thick lenses magnify the light so it seems to envelop her. She doesn’t know what possesses her to howl, then. She simply feels the urge…feels the voice of an unnamable past rise within her.

From deep in the woods upon the hills beyond the lake comes a single answer – long, quavering, thrilling, triumphant.


Phil Gallos has been a newspaper reporter and columnist, a researcher/writer in the historic preservation field, and has spent 31 years working in academic libraries (which is more interesting than it sounds). Most recently, his writing has been published in Carbon Culture Review, The Writing Disorder, STORGY Magazine, and Brushfire!, among others, and is forthcoming in Streetlight Magazine and Wisconsin Review. He lives and writes in Saranac Lake, NY.

The Congregation

by Treehouse Editors

Bailey Bridgewater

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Bailey Bridgewater’s work has appeared in Crack the Spine, The Molotov Cocktail, The Eunoia Review, Nanoism, SubTerranean, As You Were, and Fiction on the Web.

Crashing

by Treehouse Editors

Alle C. Hall

She was eight and at the beach and she felt like a movie star. Her jumper was as bright as a Lifesaver, falling well above her knees, with inch-wide shoulder straps that she loved the color of, crisp white. She played catch with her sister but she was the movie star. Her straps slid pleasantly back and forth as she dove for the ball. Before the beach, they bought it at the drugstore, the ball, along with things like her father’s film and the Juicyfruit gum that would slide out of the pack and to the bottom of her mother’s purse. She was sure that her mother knew when she snuck the flat, foil-wrapped sticks from between the pennies and loose cigarettes. The gum never tasted only sweet. It always had tobacco flakes in it.

The sand between her toes felt scratchy, a grown-up feeling, like painful, like magazines intimated it would feel when an older she would do something called fix those unsightly heels. She felt beautiful. The air smelled exactly the way air should, like salty ocean water. Like waves crashing. The air held just a touch of suntan lotion. Only little kids wore sunscreen back then. The sunscreen smelled like sunshine. Her father’s fancy camera was focused only on her; she loved the attention, she was beautiful, a movie star, she was sunshine, she was mirth, she was everything they wanted her to be. Her shoulder straps had a round button on them, a big round button. A button. On her thirty-sixth birthday, he called. That was when she let it in, what he would do with the pictures, once he developed them, would do to his body, and then her hands would tremble, would tremble when she brought back the button and the ocean water and those waves. Those waves, crashing.


Alle C. Hall is a semi-finalist in Screencraft’s Cinematic Short Story Contest (Finalists announced on March 14th, 2018. Send her good vibes). She is also a semifinalist in Hippocampus Magazine‘s “Remember in November” Creative Nonfiction Contest; a Best of the Net nominee; and First Place winner in The Richard Hugo House New Works competition. Favorite publications include Creative Nonfiction, Brevity (blog), The Citron Review, Crack the Spine, jmww, Bust, Literary Mama, Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly, and The Stranger (Contributing Writer), among others. Claim to fame: interviewed Leonard Nimoy. “He was a bit of a pill. Disappointing.” allehall.wordpress.com

A Letter to Whoever is Wearing My Boots

by Treehouse Editors

Yael Hacochen

Each year in Ramat Hagolan, at least 1,200 cattle produce milk, feed on grain and oats, give birth, and die when their time comes. When the cows were under Syrian control they were spoken to in Arabic, and after Israel took control of the land in 1973, in the war of Yom Kipor, the cows of that region were spoken to in Hebrew, or Arabic. Depending on the farmer.

In the year 1997 a calf was born. She was the second-born heifer of a prize-winning cow and died by stepping on a mine. This could be where the story ended, if not for a change in the family business. It was exactly the month that the family that owned the calf decided its skin would be used for leather.

They called in a specialist, who was missing half a pinky from his days as an apprentice. The specialist stood in the middle of the green field and produced a sheathed knife. The knife was curved like a quarter moon. He worked with the utmost care so as not to leave a scratch. The skin came off in a single thin sheet, like the parting of red petals.

The leather was loaded onto a truck. It was removed and spread in a large metal container by the two agile hands of the craftsman. He noted that the skin was small in size and heavy in weight: perfect for a small woman’s combat boots.

The leather was laid out on a black rubber cutting mat, and a pattern was drawn. Using a trimming knife, the craftsman traced the leather as one would trace a lover’s back, until four symmetrical pieces lay detached.

The pieces were handed over to a young shoemaker who worked the leather into shape and attached it to a rubber sole. The letter “צ” was stamped at the top, where it was closest to God. A small pocket for dog-tags was added into the strip. Finally, they were shipped to a base in HaKiryaa.

It happened that in the year 2006, a bushy-browed Nagad chose them off the shelf, tied the shoelaces together in a timely manner and threw them in the back of his truck. Fate called me in to see the Nagad, who whispered like a boy with a crush: “I have a surprise for you”.

Friends died in that time. But they wore different shoes. My boots were never shot, never punctured, were never crushed. They only lifted one foot after the other, or both at once.


Yael Hacohen is a PhD student at UC Berkeley. She has an MFA in Poetry from New York University, where she was an ‎NYU Veterans Workshop Fellow, International Editor at Washington Square Literary ‎Review, and Editor-in-Chief at Nine Lines Literary Review. Her poems appear or forthcoming in The Poetry Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Every Day ‎Poets Magazine, Nine Lines, and many more. She was a finalist in the 2015 Glimmer Train Very Short Story Competition, the 2015 ‎Consequence Prize in Poetry, and the 2013 MSLexia Poetry Prize for Women.‎

 

A PSA About Love

by a contributor

Sean Pravica

I metamorphosed into a bat and life has become difficult. My wife doesn’t love me anymore, but I can’t see her anyway so perhaps it’s just as well. All the other bats are loud and loveless. They remind me of my in-laws. You could say though that while I’m getting the hang of it, I would give anything to be a man again.

If I were you I would kiss my wife like I was Al Gore, before he and Tipper separated, of course. You may wake up one day and suddenly everything has changed.


Sean Pravica is a writer and entrepreneur living in Southern California. He has been nominated for writing awards including Sundress Press’ Best of the Net as well as storySouth Million Writer’s Award. His first novel, “Stumbling out the Stable,” is due for release by Pelekinesis Press in November 2015.

See Sean’s list of 5 Things in our ongoing contributors’ series later this week.

Moon Men

by a contributor

Erik Doughty

Hi, Ms. Paley. This is Jimmy Chang, calling on behalf of my son, Kevin. It seems he never received Julie’s RSVP for his birthday. The party just ended, but what if I told you he planned his whole kickball-themed day around Julie being here, yet he is terrible at all things requiring foot-eye coordination—even walking? What if none of the other booger-snacking overbiters in attendance even mattered, because only your daughter gives his heart a brain freeze?

Kevin’s been courting Julie since third grade, keeping track of how many teeth she’s lost and her favorite crayon color, which is somewhere between Pumpkin and Snazzy Sunburst. From what I understand, he said “hi” to her once by accident.

Sure, Kevin is not the ideal fourth grade boyfriend. He doesn’t know the secret handshake or not to share his chicken nuggets with the class pet iguana. But that’s on me: me failing him, not the other way around. See, he has this “eject” button on his belt loop that he presses whenever he gets stuck inside someone else’s joke. It was cute at first, but knowing what I know now, it’s like who can I ask about this? What words do good parents keep in their pockets?

Sometimes, I take him out on the roof with a telescope and a cookie dough bucket; we talk about buying a condo on the moon after we sell our lucky stars. I tell him, “I don’t know how much those go for on craigslist.” He chews with understanding.

Then, we talk superpowers: telekinesis or teleportation, the pros and cons of secret identities. Kevin would change one of his arms into a bazooka that shoots pterodactyls made of fire into the sky where they breathe rainbows and poop clouds. I thought that was weird but totally badass.

This is how I know the kickball thing is about Julie, because with the right genetic mutation, Kevin would use mind control on her friends so they’d always pick her for their team; that way, her face would never get rainy underneath the playground slide. When he asks about my powers, I claim superhuman strength and an unbreakable heart.

Ms. Paley, our kids are at the best age right now—before middle school, which just plain sucks because everyone outgrows you and your corduroys overnight. In high school, they’ll never be appreciated in their own time, learning too young to text their prayers and autocorrect their love. One or the other’s marriage will end in divorce. And it nukes my gut to think I might not be around to tell him not to fight if his wife leaves the light on in empty rooms, skyrocketing the electricity bill. Because it’s worth it—all that light in your life.

For now though, they still scamper to us when we pick them up from school. It’s the tail end of the scampering era. And the way they look at us, as if we became everything we once saw in ourselves: that’s the closest we’ll come to stadium lights.

Now, I know it’s late, Ms. Paley, and Sunday nights are school nights too. But if you and Julie would consider stopping by, we still have a decorate-your-own-cupcake station. We have videogames and pizza bagels and Kevin is saving the good controller for her. And while they play, maybe we can talk about superpowers too: about TiVo’ing real life and living without commercial interruption—about turning any water fountain into a tap with your favorite beer. What if we could save up time like it was money, and blow it all on those rare perfect moments, stretching them out for decades? Like when a spring day gets lost in January and you’re driving with the windows down, your kid and his dog in the backseat with their heads out the window—ice cream on both their noses.


Erik Doughty is an Asian American writer living in Boston, whose work has been published in The Drum, Corium Magazine, and Annalemma, among others. He is almost a lawyer and carries a notebook, air guitar, and inhaler with him wherever he goes. More of his stories can be found at erikdoughty.wordpress.com.

See Erik’s list of 5 Things later this week in our ongoing contributors’ series.

Brief Spaces of Light

by a contributor

Susan L. Lin

The night starts like all others seem to—someone says something about me that I don’t like and I throw it back at them.

Stop making generalizations, I want to say but don’t. I try to laugh instead but come up short. My trachea tightens, makes a sound like someone being strangled. Someone, not me.

Nights like this I feel myself flatten to the floor, like construction paper glued to Bristol board, a bookend being pulled away from either side of me. Am I just everyone else’s collection of body part cutouts, mismatched and held together with brass brads, I’ll move when you want me to?

At Mallory’s place, my mom leaves messages on the machine: Baby, I miss you. I haven’t even spoken to her since I left home after high school graduation to move in with Mallory. “It’s only an hour away. I’ll come visit,” I’d said, knowing what I couldn’t leave behind would fit in a recycled chocolate tin and a pillowcase with a train running across it. On the recording, her voice sounds like an unfinished jigsaw. Her words are incomplete, almost like they’re missing their vowels, almost like I’m standing on one side of the railroad tracks, only able to catch glimpses of the world on the other side as they appear, filtered through those brief spaces of light between moving train cars.

I m—ss y—. C—ll m— b—kkk.

When I see a blue Chevy Impala speeding down the freeway, it turns into a bed rolling down the hospital hall. My father is lying down on it, connected to half a dozen feeding tubes—he’s smaller somehow, younger, thinner than I remember. I can see his bones sticking out in strange places.

I wake up not knowing where I am, lying next to a head, connected to a body, the taste in my mouth like I don’t know what, pretending I don’t remember anything. I roll away, untangle myself from habit just so I can fall into it again some other night.

On my way home, I stumble over the word—H-O-M-E—wondering where it is. Lift my foot to look under my shoe—no, not there—for some reason I think this is hilarious and laugh so hard I start to cry.

Everyone I pass on the street starts looking like a stranger with familiar eyes. I see them all pale blue, something recognizable on their faces: concern maybe, disgust more likely. There’s a bum standing next to an intersection a few blocks away from Mallory’s apartment, wearing a red knit sweater with a huge likeness of Santa’s jolly face emblazoned on the front. It’s the middle of April. The glow from street lamps, blue reflectors on the road, the red-yellow-green pattern of traffic signals, all become oversized strings of Christmas lights decorating the city.

“Please, can you spare change?” the man on the corner says. He’s carrying a cardboard sign with the word HUNGRY scrawled on it in all caps. I shake my head, no, Santa glaring at me through his woven eyes.

I have to swallow as it gets later, earlier—what time is it?—to keep myself from hurling, losing more.


Susan L. Lin hails from southeast Texas and holds an MFA in Writing from California College of the Arts in San Francisco, CA. Her novella Goodbye to the Ocean, which these pieces are excerpted from, was a semifinalist in the 2012 Gold Line Press chapbook competition. Her short prose has recently appeared in Hayden’s Ferry ReviewGhost Town, Hypertext Magazine, Gravel Magazine, Portland Review, and elsewhere.  She blogs intermittently at susanllin.wordpress.com.